New Legislation Gives OU Grads Edge in Air Traffic Control Market


New Legislation Gives OU Grads Edge in Air Traffic Control Market

Aspiring air traffic controllers who earn their degrees from the University of Oklahoma’s School of Aviation Studies now have an advantage over many of their cohorts, thanks to new federal legislation enacted late last year.

The Air Traffic Controller (ATC) Hiring Reform Act of 2019 gives preference to students holding degrees from FAA-approved Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI) schools by putting qualifying veterans and graduates of AT-CTI schools ahead of the general public in the hiring pool. Graduates of AT-CTI schools are already able to bypass the Air Traffic Basics Course, a five-week training course at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City.

“Because of the hiring changes, it makes our students more likely to be selected over the general public. The legislation is really going to help future students.” - Steve West, AT-CTI program director for OU’s School of Aviation Studies

“Because of the hiring changes, it makes our students more likely to be selected over the general public,” said Steve West, AT-CTI program director for OU’s School of Aviation Studies. “The legislation is really going to help future students.”

OU’s Air Traffic Management program is one of about 30 AT-CTI schools in the country. In addition to carrying the AT-CTI certification, OU’s program offers small class sizes, a state-of-the-art air traffic control simulation lab and close proximity to the FAA training center in Oklahoma City, making it one of the CTI program’s best-kept secrets.

Dylan Mateo, a 2018 Air Traffic Management graduate who works as an assistant at OU’s air traffic control lab, recently received a tentative offer letter from the FAA. Mateo scored in the “best qualified” category on the Air Traffic-Skills Assessment (AT-SA) and is undergoing his background check. He hopes to be admitted into the FAA Academy soon.

“Right now, it’s just a waiting game,” he said.

Salary and benefits, including mandatory retirement at age 56, make air traffic control a lucrative field to enter. Following retirement, there are opportunities for management jobs, or to continue working as an air traffic controller at a smaller tower under a federal contract or as an instructor at the FAA Academy.

After first getting his private pilot’s license, Mateo realized air traffic control was more appealing to him. He said price, location and reputation all played a part in his choice to come to OU.

“The program here really outranked my other choices,” Mateo said. “Being so close to the FAA Academy was a great decision and has been very beneficial to me.”

West said OU prepares students not only to get hired, but to succeed in their careers. Students receive instruction in every possible ATC venue. All instructors are experienced former air traffic controllers, and the program includes a built-in business minor, making students more marketable as well-rounded employees.

Mateo said he feels like earning his degree at OU has increased his chances of being a successful air traffic controller.

“I feel like I know what to expect. That first-hand knowledge from my instructors is very helpful, but I think the greatest selling point of this program is the variety of classes we have,” Mateo said. “I’m much more confident about going into the academy and starting my career.”

To learn more about the Air Traffic Management program at OU, visit the Air Traffic Management page on our website or call (405) 325-7231.

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Tami Althoff

Tami Althoff holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She is a reporter with more than 20 years’ experience working for newspapers, including The Oklahoman. She has covered everything from breaking news to local music and art. She loves sports, especially OU football and basketball games, where she often embarrasses her children by yelling too loudly.